Electoral reform to impact rural areas differently

by Andru McCracken


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/ RMG File Photo 2012

Attorney General David Eby has released his recommendations on how British Columbians will choose whether or not to change the way they vote in provincial representatives and, if they choose yes, which of three options are favoured.

In a referendum this fall, British Columbians will choose to keep the current voting system (called First Past the Post – FPTP) or move to one of three systems of proportional representation.

The new systems are Dual Member Proportional, Mixed Member Proportional, and Rural-Urban Proportional.

  • The systems selected for the ballot were chosen according to four principles.
  • They must provide generally proportional results, but not at the expense of other key principles
  • They must retain local representation and balance the needs of urban and rural areas.
  • They must not be too complex to be effectively communicated to voters, or for voters to use.
  • They must not require a significant increase in MLAs.

Dual Member Proportional

DMP is a proportional voting system in which most of the province’s existing single-member electoral districts would be amalgamated with a second neighbouring district to create two-member districts. In the Interior, the largest rural districts would remain unchanged as single-member districts. Political parties then nominate up to two candidates per electoral district who appear on the ballot in an order determined by the party. Voters cast a single vote for the pair of candidates of the political party of their choice. Seats are won in two ways: The first seats are won by the first candidates of the party that receives the most votes in each electoral district, similar to FPTP; the second seats are allocated based on province-wide voting results and the individual district results.

Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)

MMP combines single-member electoral districts elected under FPTP with List PR1 seats allocated on a regional or provincial level. The overall share of seats each party holds in the Legislative Assembly is determined by the party’s share of the province-wide vote it receives. Candidates who fill the List PR seats are either elected directly or allocated from the parties’ lists of candidates to compensate for any disproportional results from the FPTP vote, so that the overall result is fairly proportional. MMP meets the principle of proportionality, particularly in regions with higher populations and relatively larger numbers of List PR seats.

Rural-Urban PR (also known as Flexible District PR)

Rural-Urban PR consists of multi-member districts with seats filled using the Single Transferable Vote (STV) in urban and semi-urban areas and MMP in the most rural areas. In the MMP regions, a small number of List PR seats are filled proportionally on a regional basis in order to provide some proportionality for these regions.

Rural-Urban PR was developed to address the varied geographic and demographic needs of voters in the urban and rural areas of Canada. It can provide some proportionality in the most rural areas of the province while retaining comparable levels of local representation for those voters. It can provide high levels of proportionality in the urban and semi-urban areas where larger STV electoral districts are more manageable for both voters and MLAs .

In the MMP regions, there would be a relatively simple ballot with the possibility for voters to vote directly for candidates for both FPTP and List PR seats. In the STV regions, while the vote-counting rules are complex, the ballot itself is not, and it permits a high degree of voter choice by permitting voters to rank preferences for multiple candidates. Rural-Urban PR could be implemented with either no increase or a modest increase to the size of the Legislative Assembly.

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